About Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Writer, speaker, retreat director, social media minister, church secretary - it's hard to believe I was once a corporate executive, but I was. Married, with spectacular stepdaughter, crazy dog, and cat living in the Capital District of New York State.

Nature’s resurrection

Ellie May 2015 WalkOh yes, I’m still here. As is so often the case, I disappear for extended periods of time, for no particular reason – and the days following Easter are often among them!

Add to that a little surgery had me resting more than writing. Plus the weather has finally improved tremendously, and I have been outside enjoying it all, going on long walks with our dog Ellie. Spring has sprung at last!

Which gets me to to this – walking around the woods, or even just my own yard during spring reveals the glory of God in nature. This is not news, but for some reason this year I seem to be more aware of life in the conditions around me in the natural world. Winter hit me hard this year, in a way that it typically does not; its glacial grip around my soul was beyond numbing.

Snowpack March 2015As recently as a month ago, we still had some remaining plowed snow that was covered with dirt. Blocks of old snow/ice – solid and nearly unbreakable, and not in a good way. That glacial grip remained.  Like bulbs I planted last autumn, those dry hard little things going down dark and deep, my own unreconciled feelings, were buried in our dry and sandy soil that had frozen over, and was covered by this dark mess.

Crocus April 2015Tulip May 2015Yet, Spring arrived in full, and that gritty pack ice near the curb has slowly melted and washed away. Suddenly green things were emerging – grass, shoots, and leaves. (Sorry – as a writer and a poor copy editor of my own work, I could not resist that one!) The branches of trees which not so long ago appeared dessicated and devoid of any new growth, were sprouting little green tips. And those dang bulbs –  up came the green, followed by crocus, then daffodils, and now tulips.

Magnolia bud March 2015No matter how dead something appears, God stirs up the Spirit in the form of new or renewed life. Even in the depth of my winter ennui in those waning days of Lent, the first buds on the magnolia tree outside of my office window caught my attention. On March 24, I decided that I would take a picture every day, or almost every day, and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #magnoliawatch.  God uses every means possible to get into our hearts. Why wouldn’t God use using social media and hashtags to get our attention?

 

Those magnolia buds became my beloved quotidian companions. What might I note from one day to the next? Was the cold too much, would the tree prevail? When would the blooms finally spring forth? Like a bird tending a nest, I was attuned to the slightest details and just as protective!

Full Magnolia White May 2015Full Magnolia Pink 2015At this point the tree has not simply bloomed, petals are already falling to the ground. Make no mistake, the tree is spectacular and I’m in love with all those big pink and white puffballs exploding in color at the end of each branch and twig. However, I see the fallen ones, and while I mourn, I also feel joy. The tree flowers intensely now, but will offer me green shade all summer long. There will be no grieving for the petals for me this year, just an embrace of what follows.

Magnolia May 2015 Full GloryEvery walk I take this Spring reveals new glories and joy, signs and wonders made plain in the flora and fauna of this ecosystem. God appears to have illustrated our Easter season readings and prayers in the growth all around me, and within me. Naturally!

Blessings of Spring to you, blessings of this continued Eastertide!

(If you read this and if you are in the general vicinity, I invite you to St. Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park tonight. We will be having Evening Prayer at 7pm, with music, and tonight I will be offering a brief reflection. Come and join us on the first Tuesday of every month – all are welcome.)

Worry, toil, distraction, bread

It’s been 3 weeks since Easter. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been trying to immerse myself in these weeks where we live the resurrection in a particular way after the 40 days of Lent.

breadDuring Lent, we are in a season of repentance as we make our way to the cross with Jesus. For me, I am also in a season of unrivaled busy-ness. Work is busier and I also have some (some?) side projects that I’m working every Lent. By time Easter Monday rolls around my only words are “Jesus is risen, indeed he is truly risen! Me, on the other hand, I’ve collapsed.”

Today’s Gospel has shaken me from my “resurrection slumber” quite powerfully when Jesus says:
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life…

This leaves me with a question about how many of us choose to live… Does our toil for our living, and our desire for a “secure future” keep us from Christ? I know that such worry and toil distracts me on a more regular basis than I care to admit. What about you?

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

the-empty-tomb-george-richardsonΧριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

These Greek words sum up what today is all about. In fact they sum up everything about our Catholic Christian – or any Christian – faith. Christ is Risen! Truly He Has Risen!

May every blessing and hope of the resurrection be yours! Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

alleluia

You shall not kill

no-killing_designA question has nagged me all during Lent, and now sits front and center on Good Friday. That question is: why do we kill one another?

Well, why do we kill one another? The Fifth Commandment states: “You shall not kill.” This seems very clear, but as human beings we seem to find numerous ways to rationalize a great deal of killing, and even more ways of denial when it comes to deaths we might be able to prevent. Consider how poverty, hunger, drugs, lack of medical care, human trafficking, the death penalty, torture, and war are the tip of the iceberg.

thou-shall-not-kill-2People die every day and not all of them are killed, but we will focus on those who are killed. I’m going to back up for a moment and pose my original question again: why do we kill one another?

We kill one another all the time, and seemingly with great ease. A few things that come to mind are the great bargains on the clothes we like to wear, getting good prices on flights, putting out-of-season produce on our tables, shaking our heads – whether with Continue reading

Holy Thursday Pedi

tnb_pic2Have you ever gotten a pedicure on or near Holy Thursday because you knew that your feet would be washed at the Mass of the Lord’s Passion?  Yes people, it is true, vanity reigned, and I made sure that my feet would look OK before I let someone wash them at church.

Yes, I know… when you do it, it’s one thing, and when you write about it or read about it, it is another thing. Did you hear me Continue reading

Am I too late?

tell-me-not(This Last-day-of Lent reflection is a guest post offered by Shannon O’Donnell. She is a longtime online Catholic friend, from the Seattle-Tacoma area, author, and jail chaplain. Her words never fail to move me.) It’s the last week of Lent, the last days, really. Some days I have been aware of the season, other days, not so much. In the county jail where I work, “Lent” describes more than just those six weeks before Easter. Some people refer to it as “Hell on the Hill.”

In mid-February, we distributed ashes at Catholic services. At communion services and prayer groups, at the one Mass, and I carried a small box of ashes with me as I met with offenders for private talks. Ashes were one thing most people could relate to, so anyone who asked received them.

Out in the parishes, Continue reading

Last gasps of Lent

-1Here we are, another Lent come and nearly gone. How do we feel? Any different from how we felt on Ash Wednesday? Or how we felt last year? Or the year before?

If you look at the selected Evening Prayer in the daily devotional Give Us This Day, you will find a reading from the Book of Acts (Acts 17:27b-31). It is not the standard evening prayer for today, as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, but I read it (yes – early, because I thought I was giving a reflection on it tonight) and I thought it really delivered the message of what these last gasps of Lent might offer us.

imagesHere we are at the end of our 40 day trek through the desert. We are likely weary, hot, tired, thirsty, exhausted. Or maybe we are not, because we saw the “last oasis before Easter” exit earlier in our Lenten journey, so we did the sensible thing – we bailed.

Some of us may be Continue reading